In Ursula Leguin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, A major plot device of the book is knowing the secret name of a person or object. Everyone, and thing for that matter, in the fictional world she created has a secret name, and if you learn that name you have power over the person. I’m pretty sure this idea, as cool as it was, was gleaned from other cultures in the world like the Native Americans, and Egyptians. Wheat, and in turn Water, most recently shared insights not into the world but into themselves, and I will try to be brave and follow suit, even though someone might know my true self and have some power over me.

"Behold it is I, Bubba"

“Behold it is I, Bubba!”

Still Not Competitive

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’m not really a sports person – at all. I think this adds to my uncompetitive nature. This is a distinctly un-American trait, I know. By definition sports has winners and losers. This can take the negative formulation that “If I make other people lose, then I win”, which to me doesn’t seem like that much of a success. While I don’t hold to this particular winners/losers model of defining success it far from lets me off the hook. It is not that I am left without powerful critics. I am left with the relentless, ever present critic …myself.

“Okay guys, if you all give it your best then we’ll go out for ice cream.”

Tis the Season for the Reason

When I finished my Master’s degree I was enamored by Rational-Emotive Therapy. I am a logical thinking kind of guy, and the idea that you could work your way to better feeling and in turn living by dispelling irrational beliefs appealed to me. So of course in my first job, which I’ve had for the past eight years, I worked at a lock-down psych facility with a great number of grossly psychotic patients, where there was no appealing to reason. This brought up a lot of questions for me about how people define themselves. Without rational thought and coherent ideas (and especially if medications appear to change your very personality) what makes a person who they are? Also on an interesting side note, most psychotic people care very little about keeping up with the Jones’ or about the esteem in which they are held. The answer for me was in the philosophical underpinnings of Narrative Therapy. Each person has their own arch through life, and these experiences and relationships play out in a sequence that makes us all unique. Now the nuanced, subtle difference, and my own personal character flaw, comes in insidious distinction between being unique and being special.

Since changing jobs, I am now counseling veterans who have PTSD from combat, and my own narrative is changing, since a significant part of my identity is wrapped up in the work that I have done and will do. The vast majority of major mental illness is hereditary. It’s no one’s fault and no one would choose it. In the case of PTSD there are external acts that illicit the illness and in the case of veterans there is choice.

“Hey Falcor, how’s about a NEW story.”

Agonizing Protagonizing

I don’t watch that much television, but there was a great episode of Scrubs from days past that has the main character JD recounting a dream to his friends in which he is Robin, and his best friend is Batman. How messed up is that!?! He is the sidekick in his own dream. In my narrative valuation of living this is similar to Water referred to hedging your bets against your best efforts. Not putting yourself completely out there in such way as to be the hero, however tragically flawed. Sometimes I go through life with a knot in my stomach as though I’m on a job interview that doesn’t end. Are people buying what I’m selling? Are they reading my narrative? Am I really the me I should be?

Okay boys and girls, who’s the main character?

The Next Chapter

Since orientation at the new job I have felt the need to tell numerous people I have met that I chaired the ethics committee at the last hospital I worked at, or that I was appointed by the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to the state’s Dangerousness Review Board (I just did it again). Of course, I had perfectly reasonable and appropriate ways of fitting this into conversation, because I was just sharing my experiences with new coworkers. Vanity. The truth is that I felt my story might be lost if not known and remembered by others. Worse yet, I fell prey to this insidious small sin in the midst of soldiers who had lost and sacrificed much, soldiers who are looking to find meaning in their own particular story. I hope I can help them find it. While it would be easier to be the sidekick in our own story or to detach from the story altogether, Wheat said it best; the story needs to be told. Now turn the page.